During December 2001, patrols were carried out in the region of Be’er Massu’a (Khirbat Bir al-Medwar) in the central Judean Shephelah (map ref. NIG 19139/62000; OIG 14139/12000) to evaluate damage to antiquities caused by recent illicit excavations that were discovered by A. Kline, inspector with the Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Robbery in the Judean Shephelah. The patrols, on behalf of the Antiquities Authority, were conducted by B. Zissu, A. Ganor, A. Kline, S. Ganor, Y. Zissu, N. and A. Greitzer, with the assistance of the Calgary Institute for the Humanities, University of Calgary, Canada.
The site does not appear on new maps. On British Mandatory maps (Beit Jibrin, Sheet 14/11; 1945) the ridge where the site exists is designated by the name of Dhahrat Khirbet Birt el Midwār, whereas the name of the ruin Khirbat Bir el Midwār appears c. 150 m to the south. On new maps the site is called Be’er Massu’a.
The site extends across 10 dunams, on top of a spur that is oriented east–west. The spur connects to Ramat Avishur in the east and is flanked from the north, south and west by tributaries of Nahal Luzit. Fertile soil for cultivation occurs in the adjacent wadi channels and a source of water is present in Be’er Massu’a. Terrace walls and fences that used ancient masonry stones were built inside the ruin, covering the ancient buildings.
The recent illicit digging in the center of the site exposed the remains of a large building whose exterior walls were built of large nari stones and interior walls consisted of well-dressed qirton stones. The accumulation of the ruins and building collapse reaches a height of 1.5–2.0 m. An examination of the debris left by the illicit diggers showed that most of the potsherds from the building dated from the first century BCE to the second century CE. The debris removed from one of the rooms contained a large amount of ash, potsherds typical of the first–second centuries CE and numerous fragments of a large chalk vessel (kalal; Fig. 1:1). The fragments have a gray color that suggests they were originally placed in a layer of ash (a burnt layer). It is quite rare to find vessels of this kind outside of Jerusalem. Alongside the kalal fragments were two bases of stone bowls that were shaped with a lathe (Fig. 1:2, 3) and a knife-carved chalk vessel whose purpose is unclear (Fig. 1:4).
Preserved around the site, especially to the south and southwest, were the remains of collapsed buildings that abutted each other and formed a perimeter fortification. Large nari blocks (1.5 m long) were used in their construction, as well as some finely crafted architectural elements, such as doorjambs and lintels. The remains in this area were preserved 2.5 m high. The recent wave of illicit digging skipped over this part of the site, which is, nevertheless, dotted with numerous excavation pits from antiquities plundering of past years. Decorated openings of caves and water cisterns are located between the buildings. One of the cisterns in the southern part of the site has a spiral staircase, descending to its bottom.
Most of the potsherds from the heaps of debris and on the site’s slopes date to the latter phase of the Second Temple period and the time of the Bar Kokhba Revolt; a small number of ceramic finds were attributed to the Byzantine period.